Flavor // Pho sure

Is there a recovery program for pho fanciers? If so, don’t turn me in. I prefer to go through life addicted to this Vietnamese meal-in-a-soup-bowl (pronounced “fuh”), served every morning (and afternoon for hardcore diners) from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Just call me Miss Saigon.

Pho is rightfully the star of the menu at Quang, a 20-year mainstay of Eat Street. In fact, it’s probably the main reason they’ve had to expand their parking lot.

Nowadays, if you’re lucky enough to snag a table, you’ll be surrounded by devotees of Asian heritage who merely have to say “the usual” to find an order sending its fragrance their way in mere minutes.

The Best-seller is Number 503, pho thap cam ($7.50), aka “the works” roast beef in paper-thing slices mingling with chunkier beef brisket, a couple of sturdy, well-seasoned meatballs, chewier tendon of pearly hue, and tripe (don’t ask; just eat it). They’re all piled onto a mountain of flat, ivory rice noodles mined with bits of cilantro. The whole concoction then springs to life with a generous ladle of well-seasoned beef broth, dancing with tiny bubbles of fat and sweet with ginger and basil.

Then it’s your job to get creative and load in the fresh fixings served
on the side: a mountain of bean sprouts to contribute crispness; a lusty frond of basil to tear up; a wedge of lime to temper the concoction; and a cross-section of a jalapeno pepper to bring things to a boil. On the table at the ready sits a jug-size portion of hot chili sauce as well as fish sauce and soy sauce, if you choose. Pull out a soup spoon and pair of chopsticks and get ready for nirvana, Vietnamese style.

Pho is claimed to cure hangovers; maybe that’s one reason why near-everyone in Vietnam starts the day with a stop at a pho stand enroute to work or school or hair of the dog. At Quang, the lunch crowd is composed mostly of Asians (a good sign): professionals holding business
meetings, their blue-collar counterparts on noontime break; gaggles of young lady lunchers; and kids on the laps of parents ensconced in exuberant family parties. There was even a Norwegian couple (my guess) at the next table, who had presumed, to their dismay, that what they thought to be a sweet green pepper was in truth a jalapeno. They haven’t come up for air.

You won’t need dessert (do we ever?), but temptations abound, in the form of a black-eyed pea pudding served with sweet rice and coconut cream; a caramel flan, Quang style; a refreshing mélange of mixed fruit (longans, red dates, golden raisins) served over shaved ice, and more.

2719 Nicollet Ave. S.